Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sturbridge Village

Last Friday we took advantage of the Fun Free Friday at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Despite the crowds, the kids had a great time visiting their Connecticut cousins and uncle whom we met up with there, and they had fun at the playground.

A, C, S & W with their leaves

They could have cared less about many of the houses, although they put up with us adults long enough to walk through a couple of the homes. The kids all did a lot of walking around as it is a pretty large living history museum.

Interior view of one of the rooms, this was an original painting uncovered by removing numerous layers of wallpaper from this house. 

Blacksmith Shop

C had a good view

Towards the end of our afternoon there we spent a while at the blacksmith shop and that interested W and many of the little kids intently watching as they explained what they were making. One of the blacksmiths said about 40% of the things they make are items used in the village there. He also said that back in the 1830's most things they would have made would be repairs for existing tools.

Next time we might plan to go on a normal weekday as it would have been more enjoyable overall. Hopefully when the boys get a little older they will also appreciate the history a bit more. It was nice to visit in nice weather in the summertime when there is more to see, our past few visits had been during the colder fall & winter months which are nice in their own respect.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jumping into First Grade

Our first day of first grade in our homeschool was an unusual one yesterday. We had lost power from Tropical Storm Irene passing through, but luckily our family was safe and our house was unharmed so we were extremely lucky to only experience a temporary power outage. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the folks in our neighboring state of Vermont and to all those across the east coast affected by the storm.

the crafty little chipmunk 

Without the lights on, W made a list of all the things we use daily that need power to run. It was quite a long list! Certainly it was an interesting project to relate to the “olden times” we are studying in Story of the World. W & C had a fun day with a lot of outside play time in the garden and on the swing set. W began a nature journal as well and observed a chipmunk up close. Those critters are pretty used to hearing the boys play. This I believe is the same chipmunk that I saw trying to roll an apple into a chipmunk hole. The crafty little guy was outfooled by the apple, which did not fit. Today we observed the same apple half eaten with numerous bite marks left by a certain chipmunk which probably had a tummy ache today.

We are getting back in the swing of Math U See Alpha & Five in a Row as well as introducing new elements to our learning materials such as The Story of the World. W mentioned to me that maybe we shouldn’t have stopped lessons for writing & math over the summer so it may be something to keep in mind for next summer. This summer was more of a “read a lot, work on some projects, and do workbooks when you want” approach. He is having difficulties with writing lower case letters so this year he will work on that and we will also be getting C better acquainted with the alphabet as well.

W picked a carrot for snack time.

Today the power is back on and we did some sit down lessons before lunch and then were outside for a few hours. C is now napping and W is playing. Earlier we looked at web sites about butterflies and hummingbirds to identify those we saw outside and learn a bit more about them. When reading about flowers that draw hummingbirds, W recognized Lupine as the flower featured in this weeks' Five in a Row book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. (That book deserves its' own post! One of my favorites so far out of the world of five in a row.) Sadly we will have to take the hummingbird feeder down once the fall settles in, as we learned the ones we see now are probably just migrating south, but hopefully they will remember our house and be back in the spring.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Festival

Since W was 5 months old, we had been taking him to a local Hot Air Balloon festival put on by the Hudson,  MA Elks Club. We missed last year due to renovating our new home, but last weekend we headed back down for the festival and went with my parents and sister who also enjoyed seeing the balloons. The price has gone up, now at $6 per adult, but I believe all the proceeds still go to a scholarship fund for local kids. The first year we went I think it was the 1st annual balloon fest, so it has grown quite a bit since we started going.

Here is a flashback to W his first balloon fest:
Ahh.. bucket seat days. "Why did you take me here, Mom?" He could care less. 

He is a little more impressed these days.

You can really feel the heat!

Can you spot seven balloons?

Balloon man! Very cool.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Caterpillars pt. II: Butterfly release!

Yesterday we freed our 4 painted lady butterflies that had emerged from their chrysalides and had enjoyed feeding on the nectar we deposited on some flowers for a few days. Rainy and busy days delayed us in setting them loose, but the whole family enjoyed seeing them get so excited about being free to fly in the real world and get out of their mesh world.

But first, let's revisit our little friends. Here Jacob gently moved the paper insert with attached caterpillars to the mesh habitat.
Then we waited. Within about 5-7 days, all of our butterflies had "hatched".

It is difficult to take photos through mesh and plastic! But here are two of the butterflies. The bottom of their container was brightly decorated, and real flowers at the bottom held drops of syrup (we used hummingbird nectar, sort of the same as sugar water). This made things pretty sticky in there but it will wipe up well to use again next year. We may even gather our own caterpillars next time since we have seen some pretty cool looking ones in the garden and around the yard. Here is an interesting web site on identifying moths, butterflies and caterpillars in your area by country, state, and county.

The big moment!

We had never seen the butterflies bounce around so much in there until the last few moments when I moved the container from it's temporary home (our porch) outside. They must have sensed it was finally their time. It was very cool to see and they were gone in a shot, flying straight up in the air. I hope they were able to find some flowers. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Aquarium Day Trip

We recently signed up for a membership for the New England Aquarium in Boston. My family has some fond and funny memories from our visits to this aquarium, and W had been once when he was 3 but didn't remember it. This was C's first visit and we went with Grandma and Grandpa visiting from the south, my sister, and our cousin. It was a fun day trip! W & C even got to see some moonjellies up close which he had read about in one of the FIAR books we did last year, Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha. We will be planning to go again soon to utilize our pass as much as we can this year.

enthralled watching the sea lions by the entrance

giant sea turtle in the large tank, and shark tail in the background

Overhead shot of one of our favorite exhibits, the penguins!

at the seal statue near the mammals exhibit

We had watched an Animal Planet show on penguins growing up the day before we went, and W recently read the Magic Tree House book Eve of the Emperor Penguin and is currently reading the fact finder. W was impressed to see the models of the penguin eggs and watch the penguins in action as they waddled, groomed and swam. The caretakers were scrubbing the penguin habitat while we were there, and next time we may plan our trip around the penguin feeding time to watch that.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Caterpillars part I

Our current summer science project is watching caterpillars change into butterflies. We ordered a painted lady caterpillar culture through Insect Lore, and it arrived last week. The first couple hours, the caterpillars did not move at all so I was hoping we didn't get a dud culture, but the insert said it is common for them to take a couple days to move. Soon they started crawling all over it and they have been busy ever since. The culture contained all the food they needed for this stage of life.

Today all 4 of the caterpillars are on the top of the container and forming into the pupa stage. Once they are all attached, we can move the cover into our bigger mesh habitat for the butterflies to hatch in. W & C enjoy seeing them up close and are excited to see their metamorphosis.

See the two pupa hanging down and a fuzzy caterpillar on top?

We wanted to do this during the summer so that we can release the butterflies outside when they are ready. More pictures to follow in part II.